Children’s hunting tales from the old days

Grandpa Boone (George Penn) was born in 1869 in the town of Polk. He was the second youngest of 12 children. His parents had emigrated from Germany with his four older brothers and sisters. Grandfather lived in Washington County all his life, so he knew the lakes here very well.

As a young man, he would take a horse and a small cart to go hunting, since there were no cars at that time. I think they just tied the horse to a tree while they were hunting.

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Several lakes were nearby when he and Boone’s grandmothers lived on their farm near the village of Cedar Creek. There was Silver Lake, Hackbarth Lake, Hasmere Lake in Jackson, Tilly Lake in Mayfield, Wallace Lake, Little Cedar Lake and Big Cedar Lake, all within two, three miles or so of where they lived.

In about 1914, grandfather and grandmother Bohn moved into the home I grew up in on Interstate 55 (now, Hwy P). My grandfather died in 1937 when I was only 7 years old, but I still have few memories of him. Probably because he lived upstairs in our house, and was around the whole time. I always remember my grandfather with a cane or crutch.

I remember him going fishing for panfish once a week when the weather was good. This was the only entertainment he really had as he got older – fishing and playing Skat. He wasn’t driving, so someone had to drop him off and pick him up, and Dad always seemed to be taking the time.

Grandpa liked to fish, and so did Dad, and that’s how we got into it. I remember that our family has always been into fishing, since we started very early in life. In the late ’30s and early ’40s, my dad would take me and Tom fishing often, whenever he had the time. Tom and I were very close and always did things together. Sometimes my sister Mary Ann (Walter) comes too, but not as a rule. My brother Jerry was too young to fish.

Mary Ann Boone Walter

Tom and I would dig up some worms for bait, see the poles of reeds with ropes and hooks and cork, and Dad would take us fishing. That was the only catch I remember when we were kids.

Marine Kettle

There were places in the Lake District where you could rent a boat for a day fishing. Most of the boats were a little leaky, so you had to save the water or your feet would get wet. Most fishing gear at that time was just a hook, line, sinker, cork and reed shaft.

We had to improvise our fishing gear when we were little kids. We didn’t have any fishing reels. They might have had it at the time, but we didn’t have any. We used a bobbin of thread for the line. We just got it off my mom’s sewing machine. There were different strengths of thread in sewing and it was written directly on the bobbin, so we will know which thread to use. For the hooks, we’d take one of my mom’s pins and fold it into a hook.

click over here To read about Boys of Last Summer by Dave Bohn

My father had about half a dozen reed poles that we were going to use. We just cut some string around the length of the reed shaft and tied the string to the top of the shaft. Since we were frying fish, we were fine most of the time with my mom’s thread which didn’t break much. When we were done fishing, we would wrap the string around the shaft a few times, lower it down and fix the hook to the bottom of the shaft.

We used corks from bottles as the popper, as corks were common in all bottles at that time. There were no screw caps or even metal caps that I can remember. We cut the cork and then put the line/thread into the slide. Mission accomplished.

Finally, we attach the reed poles to the car on the trip to the lake. We slid the poles along the side of the head lamp that hung on old Fords and then attached the rear end of the pole to the door handle and went down to the small cedar lake.

The kettle, the small rice lake
The kettle, the small rice lake

When we were kids, my dad used to take us to Little Cedar Lake often in the late spring. We always hunt blue gills. Most of the time, we’d go when the gills were breeding and close to shore. The blue pelts will take their fins and sweep away the topsoil to expose the sand where they lay their eggs. You can see the white sand, so you can tell where they spawn. When they were spawning, that was the time my dad took me with Tom hunting.

The northern end of Little Cedar Lake was called “Kettle” and this is where we usually fish. My father was renting a boat there from L.C. Richter for 50 cents a day. Richter was older, but he was really nice. I read he raised his prices to $1.00 the next day, but Tom and I remember it was 50 cents when we were kids. This included an anchor and oars for rowing the boat, since there were no engines at the time, at least we didn’t know about them. My father was rowing the boat to the fishing spot as Mr. Richter suggests, but it wasn’t always the right place to fish. At noon we would have the picnic lunch my mother had packed for us and drink cold coffee with sugar – it was good.

We caught fish most of the time, mostly blue gills, some sunfish, perch, and crappie. There was no hunting license requirement at the time. When we were really young, the limit was 50 blue pills. But then they lowered it to 25. We rarely maxed, but we always had fun. We didn’t have much money at the time, but it was a day out for us kids for 50 cents.

click over hereTo read about finding Indian arrowheads by Dave Boone

When I was about six and my brother Tom was about eight or nine, we started a small business selling worms. In the summer, we would sell worms and baby worms to fishermen who drove past our house on their way to one of the area’s lakes.

Horizon Outfitters

We were digging for cornerworms on our farm near the chicken house. The chickens were so helpful with that because their food (the mash, as we called it) was spilling from their feeders in the shade under the nearby apple trees, along with their drinking water. Their drinking water was changed daily, so any water from the previous day that had not been used was poured onto the floor. The moisture and mash that spilled was perfect for the worms to feed on.

When mixed with extra water, it was ideal for growing worms. The chicken feeding area is where we will dig for worms. We would store it in a large bucket on the north side of our house, out of the scorching sun.

We put up a “Doodle for sale” sign on the highway in front of our house, for the fishermen to stop. We children had very little contact with the outside world until we started selling worms to fishermen on their way to the lakes. In the end we had a lot of regular customers. We sell worms for 25 cents for 50 worms. At some point, we raised our prices and got a pretty penny per worm.

Jeff Souls on Main

Most hunters will only buy 50 worms. We tried to put 100-150 worms in the bucket at all times during the summer months. Weekends have always been busier, so we usually dig up more worms on those days. If it’s Sunday and we know we’re going to get a lot of business, we’ll prepare the worms ahead of time and put them in tin cans full of earth. 50 for a tin can. They didn’t last long in tin cans, so we couldn’t count them unless we knew we were going to sell them.

I think my sister Mary Ann did most of the work with the worm trade. She was helping Tom and I pick worms out of the ground that had been turned over with a shovel. My grandmother Boone helped too. She lived upstairs and would occasionally sweep the area to make it easier to catch the worms. Every once in a while, my dad would dig, too. But it was mostly Grandma and Mary Ann who would help. Usually it was Mary Ann who sold the worms to the fishermen because she was in the house, while Tom and I were helping Dad or in the creek.

We also sold manna, which we caught in Roscoe Creek with hook, string, and worms as bait. Almost every day in the summer we would fish for minnows and then go swimming. Our business was not the most profitable for us, as the young animals often died before we could sell them. We’d put them in a cattle water tank when we got home, but they only lasted a few days. We sold quite a few transient hunters but keeping them alive was the biggest problem. We’ve sold twice or three times as many worms as we do.

We would earn several hundred dollars in one season selling worms to passing poachers. This was a lot of money for us kids. The money we made selling worms and fish was divided between Tom, Mary Ann, and myself. I don’t really remember what we did with all that money, but we were glad we got it.

Tom remembers that my mom set up bank accounts at First State Bank in town for both of us and deposited most of the money into ours. This looks like my mom.

When we were coming home from fishing, my and Tom’s job was to clean the fish and bring it to my mom. We were cleaning it next to the barn on the cement board covering the well room. We put the guts of the fish in the compost heap, where they are converted into compost. Then we would take the fish home to my mother, and she would roll it in flour and fry it for dinner. Sometimes we give Grandma some of it. If we didn’t eat all the fish that day, we would put it on ice and store it in the cellar for a few days.

Lithia Brewery by Eileen Eckert

We got on the ice at Lithia Brewery, on the northeast corner of Main Street and Highway 33. The brewery had a small ice room where they stored ice where they were harvested from local lakes in the winter and sold to locals year-round. I think paying for the ice was on the honor system. If I remember right, my dad paid 25 cents for a block of snow about 24 by 24 inches. Lithia Brewery also had a large ice room that was only used for the brewery.

When Dad went into town, he would pick up a block of snow in Lithia and put it in a cardboard box in the basement when he got home. We didn’t have an ice box to keep things cool and we didn’t use a lot of ice. We only used it when we had fish. And when the fish were feeding, we were looking forward to a good fish dinner.

Bohn Moski, fishing

Our family has always been big on fishing, thanks to grandfather and father. My father’s favorite sport was fishing, and he did his share until his death at the age of 90. One of the father’s best days was when he got his 50-inch, 28-pound musky at Big Sand Lake in Villas County when he was 85 years old.

Land and Legacy #1

He and Leona Spaath, his cousin, were good friends and she was the hunter, too. They were fishing crappie in his small boat with a 6-pound test line when it was a musky piece. Believe it or not, the musky landed. Perhaps it was with a little heavenly help from grandfather.

When I was a boy fishing for blue gills in Little Cedar with my dad and Tom, it never occurred to me that I would go fishing for king salmon in the wilds of Alaska or piranha in the Amazon, Brazil. But over the years, that’s exactly what hunting has taken me. Tom and I are in the 90s now. The fishing has passed us by, but we still have a lifetime of memories and fish stories to tell.

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